Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Oh, jeez. Here we go again. The Vangua publishes a section called "Cultura(s)" every Wednesday. Normally, it consists of an interview with someone nobody cares about, several reviews of books and art exhibitions that nobody is going to read or see, and an essay bashing America.

This week it's Jorge Semprun's turn. Semprun is an old Stalinist who has never been right about anything. OK, we'll give him his props: he fled Spain after the Civil War and went to France, where after a couple of years he was arrested by the Nazis and sent to Buchenwald. He survived, as did many of those sent to Buchenwald and Dachau, because those were not Auschwitz or Treblinka-style death camps created for the killing of Jews and other racial undesirables, nor were they holding camps for those who would end up at a death camp, like Bergen-Belsen; they were political camps for anti-Nazis. The problem is that Semprun wasn't arrested for being a liberal or a democrat or a patriot; he was arrested for being a Communist, a Stalinist true believer, who followed Party orders at all times. Semprun also wrote the script for the movie La guerre est finie, which is what he'll be remembered for, and something like forty books.

In the debate about Europe: its future, its political formation, its ongoing expansion to ten new countries--a debate which is, by the way, logically permanent, since Old Europe is, above all, pluralism, critical reason, and democratic debate--in that discussion, new considerations have been introduced since the crisis opened up by the American war in Iraq.

A crisis which is neither the first nor the last in the Europe-United States alliance, as necessary and problematic since its beginnings. In this case, nevertheless, the unilateral and fundamentalist decision by President Bush's cronies to ignore all international legitimacy, basing all their strategy on the undeniable military power of the US, which nobody today in the universe can oppose, that arrogant unilateralism has multiplied the negative effects of the initial decision.

Unilateral? 15 of the 19 NATO countries supported the war, along with everybody else in Eastern Europe. Ignoring international legitimacy? We are currently occupying Iraq with the permission of a UN resolution passed 14-0 in the Security Council.

From the first moment, France and Germany were right, in the Security Council, when they opposed the American affirmations about Iraqi arms of mass destruction, maintaining the orientation toward a reinforced intervention of the United Nations inspectors in that country. It has already been demonstrated that the overblown danger of those weapons was a lie by the State, the most shameless, the most cynical, that world history has ever seen. And it is lamentable, not only from an ethical point of view, that such a disgusting and horrible lie--none of the dictatorships of the 20th century has ever dared to do so much to justify an imperial intervention, has been conceived, developed, and put into effect in a great democracy.

WHAT? Imperial intervention? Remember the Nazi-Soviet pact or the Nazi takeovers of neutral Denmark, Norway, Holland, or Belgium? How about the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe or the crushing of the Hungarian revolution? Comparing the Anglo-American decision to permanently get rid of rogue states and terrorist gangs to any real imperialist power grabs is so stupid that it's, well, really stupid. And, by the way, no one in the Bush or Blair administrations told any lies at all, as the British investigation of the BBC is demonstrating.

Now, from this correct position, neither France nor Germany has been able--though the overwhelming principal responsibility lies with France--to develop and occupy a strategic position that would have permitted Old Europe to distance itself militarily from the US, maintaining, nevertheless, a political position in the coalition and in international responses toward the predictable and inevitable problems of the US in Iraq after its also inevitable and predictable rapid military victory.

If I'm reading this right, Semprun wants to have his cake--Old Europe decides what's going to happen, not the Americans--and eat it too--maintain Frog-Kraut presence in the Western coalition--while doing nothing to make that cake, such as, say, spending money on an army that can actually fight.

We should point out, among the most negative factors of the Franco-German strategy against Bush's fundamentalism, the circumstantial alliance which was established with Putin's Russia. That political regime, today, no matter how optimistic we are about its long-term future, is not worthy of an operative alliance with Old Europe, the mother of all democracies, of all freedoms, of all the universalist visions of history, which we should remind poor, primitive Donald Rumsfeld about.

Old Europe is the mother of all democracies? Check out this timeline: British Glorious Revolution 1688; US Revolution 1775; US Constitution 1787; French Revolution 1789; French Revolution dissolves into totalitarian dictatorship 1791; British Reform Bill 1832; British Dominions get self-government, peacefully, 1860s; House of Lords stripped of most power 1910; Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria become stable democracies 1947-1978. And Jorge Semprun the Stalinist is not fit to lick the soles of Donald Rumsfeld's boots. Mr. Rumsfeld is one of the statesmen who best understands that all "universalist visions of history"--i.e. Fascism and Communism, Socialism and nationalism--are extremely bad ideas.

Besides, that alliance, though it is ephemeral and opportunistic, necessarily causes suspicion and fear in the Central and eastern European countries that are preparing to join the EU. For Poland, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, the Baltic States, it is clear that Russia still provokes terror, not only for the fearful past of the Stalinist empire, the second nuclear power in the world, but also for its future.

Wait. I thought Semprun had just said that the US overthrow of Saddam was worse than anything the 20th century dictatorships did. Coherence and consistency is not his strong point. Nor does he remind us that he was a Stalinist activist and true believer until 1964 when La Pasionaria and Carrillo purged him from the Spanish Communist Party for Trotskyist tendencies. It's a little too late for you to start slamming Stalin, Jorge.

That's enough of this crap. Here's some more crap. This is from the movie review section. Beware any writing about movies that uses the words "film", "criticism", or "cinema". European movie sections review all American movies that are not patriotic pamphlets like "Independence Day" as courageous criticisms of the American system and way of life. Uh, guys, they're just movies.

From Quebec, in the heart of American civilization, Dennis Arcand prophesized in 1987 that we were about to witness the decline of the American empire; a few years later, Arcand certifies that with the live-on-TV collapse of the Twin Towers, the time of the barbarian invasions has arrived. That fable has a double meaning. On one hand, Armcand insists on reminding us that the political preponderance of the Impire has entered a crisis situation and terrorism is announcing the beginning of the sack (of Rome, I assume).

Nevertheless, the death of every civilization leads to darkness and obscurity. So, in the field of culture, illustrated values--humanism, in the wider sense of the term--have not ceased to succumb, replaced by the new barbaric values of technology. the intellectual who was formed through knowledge is rejected by a society that gives more importance to cellphones than to books. In these new times, culture too is condemned to an exodus.

Among the values in crisis is democracy. Among the most interesting fables about America that cinema will provide us in the upcoming season is the work of a Dane who has never set foot in the United States, "Dogville" by Lars von Trier. Similarly to what Berthold Brecht did in the Thirties, von Trier constructs a critical parable, with a structure similar to epic theater, about the splendor and the decadence of American civilization. As is habitual in Von Trier's cinema, the protagonist of "Dogville" is a saint--Nicole Kidman--exiled by her family and condemned to live in the heart of deepest America. The Danish cineast shows us a community with no moral, fearful for its own possessions, where the mad dogs do not hesitate to devour one another because they tolerate no differences. An America conceived in ambition in which intolerance eats away at its own structures. Another parable about America, "Elephant", directed by Gus Van Sant, has many points in common with Michael Moore and his "Bowling for Columbine". "Elephant" shows us a massacre in a high school, dissects the moment of the catastrophe, reflects on the impossibility of objectivising it, and warns us that the slightest detour toward monstruosity can turn out terrifying. In the middle of a sick civilization everything is unpredictable and adolescents, with no future, live in a state of perplexity.

Right. Whatever you say, dude. Note the similarity of the sentences I boldfaced and the Nazi criticisms of the US that I pointed out from the Nazi propaganda archive.

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